In my role here in the RSA I often hear stories that captivate me. This is one of those stories and I thank the family for giving me permission to share this story. I must congratulate the Author Helen Darnell for sharing her journey with the Hat and reuniting this piece with the family.
Mike Wharepouri RSA Manager
Ten years ago Puhoi Town Library decided to commemorate Anzac Day by opening the library doors to the community, putting on a display and serving drinks and Anzac biscuits, providing a place for people to share their memories. As the years have gone by our document and war-time memorabilia display had grown and, in our 12ft x 8ft building already replete with books from ceiling to floor, we only had space left in our rear window to fill. So we started with a military hat, then another and we now have quite a collection of them. Nothing can bring you quite so close to those brave servicemen as touching something they have worn when they were on active service, but we did not know the men to whom these hats had belonged as they either had no names in them or the name was so common we could not be sure if we had found the right person.
This year was different, we have added a further hat to our stock, an RNZAF flying officer’s cap, and discovered the name H.G. Jenkins written inside. All our searching only produced the name of one man who could have owned this hat and here is Flight Lieutenant Harry Graham Jenkins’ story.
Flight Lieutenant Harry Graham Jenkins
NZ 413079 – RNZAF - 547 Squadron WW11
Harry was born in Remuera, Auckland on 5th February 1919 his parents were Harry Reginald & Agnes Graham (nee White) Jenkins. As his name was the same as his father’s he was known as Graham although officially recorded as Harry Graham Jenkins in governmental records. His father merited inclusion in “Who’s Who” and was a larger than life character who took his civic duty very seriously.
Who’s Who 1938: JENKINS, Harry Reginald.
J.P. Retired. Ex-M.P. for Parnell, Auck; Ex-Member, Auck. Univ. Council; Ex-Member Auckland War Memorial Museum Council;
Ex-Member Auckland City Council; Founder Gane Milking Machine Co. and the Gane Engineering Co.
Mr Jenkins’ Grandfather arrived in N.Z. in 1840 as a Missionary and his Great Grandfather was Captain Drake, R.N. of H.M.S. Brittania, 1840. Married: Agnes Graham, third daughter of Reuben White of Taranaki, N.Z., Issue: one son, Harry Graham and three daughters. Recreations: Golf, tennis, boating, shooting.
Harry (Graham) was educated at King’s School, Remuera, Auckland where, in addition to the normal qualifications gained, he won the Herbert Smith Cup for the most “Scientific Boxer”. Then on to Auckland University before joining the RNZAF in May 1941 – Serial No. NZ413079.
On 6th Jan 1942 the Air Department, Wellington list showed Harry appointed as Pilot Officer in Canada (NZ Herald 7/3/1942).
He went through a sequence of training with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan at facilities in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, Canada. (see B.C.A.T. File).
On 1st Oct. 1942 he was promoted, in Canada, to Flying Officer and joined the 547 Squadron RAF in the UK. (Coastal Command Anti-shipping and Anti-submarine Squadron). This squadron was formed on 21st Oct 1942 at RAF Holmsley South and was initially equipped with Vickers Wellington V111s. (see:file “No 547 Squadron (RAF): Second World”)
547 Squadron RAF
“No.547 Squadron was an anti-shipping and anti-submarine warfare squadron that largely operated over the Bay of Biscay from late 1942 until the autumn of 1944, and then off the coast of Norway until the end of the war”.
November 1942-May 1943: Vickers Wellington V111
April-November 1943: Vickers Wellington X1
October-November 1943: Vickers Wellington X111
October 1943-September 1944: Consolidated Liberator V
June 1944-June 1945: Consolidated Liberator V1
March-June 1945: Consolidated Liberator V111
October-December 1942: Holmsley South
December 1942-January 1943: Chivenor
January-March 1943: Tain
March-May 1943: Chivenor
May-October 1943: Davidstowe Moor
October 1943-January 1944: Thorney Island
January-September 1944: St. Eval
September 1944-June 1945: Leuchars
Harry (Graham) also received a mention in “The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-1945” author Thompson, Wing Commander H.L. This book is held by Victoria University, Wellington. See “New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force” Vol. ll. Chapter 9 – “Prelude to Invasion”, Page 270. This chapter relates to the build-up to an invasion of Western Europe which was to be the Supreme Operation for 1944, “D-Day” (see file).
“Flight Lieutenants Jenkins(1) and Nicholls(2) of No 547 Squadron both captained Liberators in night attacks over the Bay of Biscay”. “(1) Flight Lieutenant H.G.Jenkins; born Auckland, 8 Feb 1919, joined RNZAF May 1941”
Harry’s log book records that he flew for 10 hours on 6th June 1944 during the D-Day landings. What is not recorded in Harry’s log book is that for the full period of his war service he suffered from flying sickness, which cannot have been helped by his role in an anti-shipping and anti-submarine squadron where he had to fly under fog close to the ocean’s surface near the rolling waves.
On 29th March 1945 Harry transferred from the Active List to the Reserve List of Air Force Officers, New Zealand Air Force.
So many pilots were lost during the war, especially those flying in Western Europe; it was heart-warming to learn of Harry’s safe return. Although his return must have been somewhat of an ordeal as his mother had died in September 1943 whilst he was away.
Harry’s war certainly changed his whole life. It was in Calgary, Canada, that Harry met the woman he later married, Phyllis Lorraine Colclough.
When Harry found out he was to do his flight training in Canada he was given strict instructions by his cousin, Thora Parker, that he must visit her pen friend, Phyllis Colclough, in Calgary. Accordingly, on his leave he climbed on a train and took what turned out to be an extremely long journey across Canada, taking up many days of his leave, just to keep this promise to his cousin. When he met Phyllis he was delighted to find that this was no chore. She was amazing. She took him skating and held his hand to keep him upright and his heart melted, they had the most wonderful 3 days together before he had to return from his leave. They were separated throughout the war, with Harry based in England and Phyllis in Canada, but wrote numerous letters to each other which cemented their relationship and in October 1944 Harry travelled from his base in England to Calgary and married Phyllis on 24th of that month. On 10th Feb 1945 Phyllis travelled, on her own, to Auckland and lived in a house owned by Harry’s family in Tamaki awaiting Harry’s transfer from the “Active List” on 29th March.
William Thomas Colclough.
Phyllis, like Harry also had an eminent father, English born William Thomas Colclough, who was born in 1872 into a Birmingham family with a naval background. He served in the Devonshire Regiment in India (1897-98) on the Punjab’s frontier from where he was transferred to the bloody war in South Africa (1899-1902) in 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Devonshires. (No.2776 Sgt. W.T.Colclough); fighting at Laing’s Nek, Ladysmith and Tugela Heights. After this “bloody little war” he was unanimously voted by a board of officers to receive one of the five khaki Berlin wool scarves knitted/crocheted by Queen Victoria herself and presented to five Boar War veterans. She had instructed that a vote be taken by the NCOs of each of the five battalions that had been in every action and submitted to the commanding officers of the units for their approval. The scarves were only presented to those men who had been recommended for the Victoria Cross.
William returned to England in 1902 and married his wife, Florence May Griffiths. In the following year he emigrated to Canada and joined the Winnipeg Field Battalion, then in 1911 he was commissioned with the Winnipeg Light Infantry. During the First World War he saw action with the 10th Battalion, CEF, 53rd Battalion and 108th Battalion. At the end of the war he returned to the Winnipeg Light Infantry, retiring from service as commanding officer (Lt. Col.) in 1933 when he came to Calgary as manager of the Colonel Belcher Hospital.
Harry & Phyllis had two boys, Michael William Graham at the end of 1945 and Christopher Harry in 1949 and they took the children to visit their Canadian relatives for Christmas 1949/50.
They bought land and farmed in the Omaha District and then retired to the town of Warkworth in 1965, where Harry, like his father, became involved in politics.
Phyllis died in 1999 after 55 wonderful years with Harry (Graham) who died on 11th Dec. 2010 aged 91. A few years after Phyllis’ death Harry (Graham) married for a second time to a local lady Pat Cooper, a lovely bubbly person, who made the last years of his life very happy.
Graham Jenkins 1919 – 2010
(Mahurangi Matters - March 2nd 2011)
A former World War 11 air force pilot, who became a farmer and Warkworth Town Councillor, Graham Jenkins died suddenly on December 11th last year, aged 91. His service was held in the Warkworth Presbyterian Church where he was elder and devoted parishioner.
Graham was born in Auckland, the son of Harry Jenkins, Member of Parliament for Parnell and a successful businessman who owned the Gane Milking Machine Company.
During World War 11, Graham trained as a pilot and was posted to the UK, where he flew Lancasters and Hudsons on coastal command searching for enemy shipping and u-boats. Although he was always reluctant to share his wartime stories, his logbook records that he flew for 10 hours on 6 June 1944 during the D-Day landings.
While overseas he met and married Phyllis, a Canadian, who was to share his life for the next 55 years until her death in 1999. The couple had two sons, Michael & Chris. In 2005 aged 86 Graham married Pat Cooper.
After returning from the war, Graham initially worked for his father before deciding that life as a company secretary was not for him. He bought a property on Leigh Road near Meiklejohn Bridge in the Omaha District, where he farmed for many years before moving to Warkworth in 1965. Around this time he was elected to the Town Council where his contemporaries were men such as Harry Bioletti and town clerk F.O. Civil. He Served on the council until it was absorbed into Rodney County Council in 1973.overseeing projects such as a new town bridge and the opening of the water treatment plant. So keen was his interest in the new town water supply that he trained as a treatment plant operator and ran the plant for many years.
Described as a man who lived life to the full, Graham keenly shared his faith with the children in the “Bibles in Schools Programme” in the area. He also assisted a number of congregations from Leigh to Warkworth as a Lay Preacher, bringing a fresh and practical message delivered with his quick witted humour and a twinkle in his eye.
He played tennis with the club in Whangateau and was also a keen golfer, winning the Warkworth Intermediate Championship in 1965. He was a Rotarian from the founding of the club in Warkworth, and in his later years, joined Probus. Active throughout his life and extremely generous with his time, Graham was still busy on joinery and furniture repair projects for family and friends when he died.
Most of this synopsis of H.G. Jenkins’ life was compiled using various public web sites but the soul of the man was uncovered when I spoke to his family and friends. He is remembered by all as a kind generous man and the archetypal gentleman.
It is magical how this hat, purchased on Trade Me, has enriched my life over the last few months and my research certainly increased my awareness of the sacrifices made by the brave New Zealand airmen who flew with the Allied Forces in Europe.
You will be delighted to know that we have had the pleasure in returning this relic of WW11 to Harry’s (Graham’s) family where it belongs. With the sure and certain knowledge that it will be treasured by his future generations.
If it is available, Puhoi Library may request to borrow this hat again for display on future Anzac days.